NATIONALISM AND NATION STATES – Is it good to have nearly two hundred individual states in the world, and WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Woven into a materialistic and capitalist competition system, the existence of national or individual states, and thus the pursuit of national interests and egoisms – be it of economic or social nature – represents one of the fundamental root causes for the existence of military conflicts, oppression, exploitation, injustice, forced migration and environmental degradation in this world.
Viewed from a distance – and not necessarily only from the prospective on Planet Earth from outer space – it is an absurdity that on a tiny planet situated amidst a massive universe with billions of other planets one and the same biological species (the so called homo sapiens) – just one of a total estimated 8.7 million different biological species on our planet – has taken in possession the entire earth but then fragmented it into almost two hundred (195) separate or nation states.
Here these states have often meticulously patrolled borders, each has formulated its own laws, as many different constitutions, and every country has mostly heavily armed military forces some of which have an accumulated capacity of destroying the planet. And all of this effort is not for the purposes of differentiating itself from another species (elephants for example..?) or of defending itself against an external enemy (aliens from outer space..?), but in order to differentiate itself from its own species on the other side of those artificially self-drawn borders, to protect itself against its own species or disassociate itself from it !?
Purely by definition nationalism denotes an ideology and related political movements that aspire to creating and ensuring a sovereign nation state („single state“) and a conscious identification and solidarity of all its members with the so-called own nation. In this context, it is claimed that the descent, language and an alleged equality of the character and culture form identity. Additionally, the questionable argument of the achievements of a nation, and the pride in it, is sometimes mentioned as contributing to forming national identity (for example, the „we are the greatest nation on earth“, expressed not only by all US presidents to date). A nation state is thus a state model based on the idea and sovereignty of the nation. In particular, linguistic, cultural or ethnic equality are often named as a condition of the nation state, but are in reality nowhere fully realized. The ideas of the nation and the nation state are also referred to as constructs and are „no“ natural condition of human coexistence.
On this small planet on which it has already become very tight for us – we need more and more to pile up in megacities as the vast majority of us is not able anymore to generate sufficient money in the countryside – we have thus established ourselves into nation states. These states have in principle the objective (a) to strengthen the self-esteem (pride) of its own, however defined, nation and (b) more importantly, at least outwardly to lead its own people (usually more a privileged class) to prosperity, and to maintain and further boost such achievement. It is evidently of secondary interest for these countries whether this policy contributes to or readily accepts, inside and especially outside of its state borders, relatedly created social and economic injustice, human and environmental exploitation, or in particular violent conflict and war.
History and our present times are marked by nationalism and national egoism, i.e. the superiority of the interests of one’s own nation and superimposing the national community over the rights of individuals and those of other countries. The system of nation states has asserted oneself as the universal form of politics especially since the decolonization process of the fifties and sixties of the 20th century. For centuries it has been over and over again, no matter where on the planet, about pushing through own interests of individual states. From antiquity to modern times, it is the history and the present of oppression, war, conquest and exploitation – just a few examples from our recent present: two World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Maghreb wars, Yugoslavia/Balkans, Near East, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, Mali, Somalia, Libya, Syria, etc.
Obviously, in these conflicts not only nationalistic, ethnic and religious aspects play a role, but also other factors, in particular the economic interests (natural resources, trade routes, markets etc. ) and ideological political opposites – but are not these two reasons ultimately yet again nothing but national interests of warring states? And isn’t it just the same as with all the proxy wars, which manifest themselves up to the present, in which third countries carry out conflicts partly also in the interest of others (USA, Russia, UK, EU, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. )? The right of self-determination is a fundamental right when ethnic or religious groups are discriminated against within or outside a country or even oppressed and persecuted (among others Kurds, Palestinians). However, in many efforts of preservation and new formation of nation states this is today mostly not the case – here usually it is mostly more about national and therefore nationalistic selfishness, or in some other countries to enforce ethnic or religious dominance.
But in what do we still differ today from other people in other countries – and are there still reasons for justifying nationalism and the existence of nation states?
When talking about the people in other countries, it is often said one is indeed so different from each other. In fact, decades or even centuries ago the people in different countries were still strongly conditioned by their social and cultural structures and rituals. They spoke only their own language/dialect, one knew only his own food, clothing, songs, dances, festivals, traditions, was isolated of the reality of other nations, was different. But today? In virtually every household in the world there are radio, television, mobile telephone, the world is largely linked via the Internet, the values and ways of life have more and more aligned. Not just with a click – you can choose what you want, and we request today worldwide similar things. The music and movie offering, our clothes, our food, our communication, virtually everything has by now become globalized – one has become similar everywhere. People everywhere have similar desires and values. We all want money and good reputation, a nice house, good food, a great car, a modern smartphone, vacations, affordable luxury, good education for the children, good health care, a high level of personal security etc. – virtually anywhere in the World. So, are we still so different today? Certainly not.
Of course, there are still some other, even fundamentally different things that distinguish us from each other, for example the behaviour between men and women, or with respect to the environment and the nature, the use of force in society, the importance of religion. But even these very important differences are not „national“ but social and cultural characteristics (depending on social class, education level, local cultural environment etc.) or refer, as in the case of religion (but there always less), rather to geographical regions. Also mentalities become increasingly alike (for example the attitude towards work/leisure, the value and definition of family), there is no longer a prototype of a nation. There might be at present on the planet only two tiny spheres where one can indeed speak of a very different social system, namely the completely walled off from the rest of the world North Korea in its strictly socialist structures, and the reality of the few remaining original tribes (Amazonas, Congo basin), where a clan and values system prevails fundamentally different from ours.
So what conclusion can we draw?
A mature society founded upon global solidarity cannot afford a fragmentation of a restricted available natural habitat and the construction of defensive national societies (individual states). Any, howsoever reasoned, nationalism lacks in today’s globalized world any foundation and justification. Thus, the dissolution of all state boundaries and with it of the separate nation states, while simultaneously safeguarding the cultural identity of ethnonational groups and their distinctive characteristics, is an indispensable basic presupposition for creating an inclusive, sustainable, global social framework on Planet Earth.
If the human rights and the requisite new basic values and related rights (see also GLOSMO, Chapter B.I.) are to become a reality for all human beings, if the reorientation of society, and hence also of the corresponding systems of production and labour are to become feasible, a globally renewed society on planet Earth cannot and should not permit any division into separate states. We need a single unified global society, the only way to permanently secure peace and prosperity for all and protect the planet from the ecological collapse – this is not a utopia but a survival necessity.